General Motors is handling the recall of 1.6 million small cars in a variety of different ways. CEO Mary Barra released a video statement apologizing for the recalls, letters to owners have been sent, and GM has been using the news media to get their message out. But one platform is more crucial to showing GM’s commitment to making things right again more than any other, its social media networks.
A recent report from The New York Times highlights the activity of GM’s Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the recall. At a first glance, GM’s Facebook page might appear to be business as usual, there are features and photos on the Camaro Z/28 and customers sharing photos of their GM vehicles, but the comments on these posts tell a different story.
One Facebook user which The Times identified as Donna Genader commented on GM’s page that her daughter “used every penny she had to purchase her dream car and instead she is stuck with a death trap on wheels.” The complaints might look bad, but it gives GM the opportunity to iron individual customer’s problems, like getting Genader’s daughter a loaner car.
This issue cannot define GM going forward,” said Dave Evans, vice president of social strategy at Lithium Technologies, a San Francisco-based company that helps companies manage customer service on social networks. “They really have the opportunity to fundamentally redefine themselves as an open, transparent, listening organization.”
One customer, Lauren Munhoven, turned to GM over Twitter after receiving little to no help from GM on the telephone in regards to the ignition switch on her 2006 Saturn Ion.
“@GM your agents keep telling me to take my car to a GM dealer for the recall, after I’ve explained I live on an island in Alaska! Help!!!!,” she wrote in a tweet directed at GM.
GM ended up messaging Munhoven privately on Twitter, where they agreed to pay $600 for a round-trip ferry to ship her car to the nearest GM dealer and pay for a rental car while she is without the Saturn.
A team of about 20 GM employees in Detroit manages the company’s social media presence. The team monitors about 100 automotive forums and responds to customer complaints and inquiries seven days a week.
So far, the social media response tactics appear to be working. Even though GM’s name is mentioned in news headlines about federal investigations and their failure to recall the affected vehicles, opinions about the company and its brands have remained the same since the issue first arose. According to a study from Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics firm based out of Boston, about 26 percent of public tweets about the company were positive, 71 percent were neutral and 3 percent were negative.